When the '04 Dodge Durango reaches showrooms in mid-November, Chrysler Group intends to ride its coattails to an end-of-year sales surge.

“We're going to leverage the dickens out of Durango,” John H.O. Sloan, senior manager-car marketing, says of a vehicle he believes can be a showroom traffic driver.

Dodge sales are down, Sloan says, because it did not keep up with General Motors Corp. in incentives spending in September. “Because of this, we'll be very pleased to finish a little over last year,” he says.

Sloan is more confident about 2004, with a full year of Durango sales and the entry of the Dodge Magnum cross/utility vehicle in the first half of next year.

“The Magnum is pushing new territory, bringing back a level of performance people haven't experienced at this price,” he says.

Sloan declines to specify volume but says Magnum won't be a 100,000-unit seller.

Sloan forecasts that about 75% of Magnum sales will be split between the SE trim level (20%-25%) and SXT (50%-60%), both equipped with V-6 engines. He expects the top-of-the-line RT model with the 340-hp Hemi V-8 will account for roughly 20%-25% of sales.

“Not everybody is going to buy a Hemi, we understand that,” Sloan says, and price may play a role. Optional all-wheel-drive is expected to cost about $2,000 and be purchased by 15%-25% of buyers, but there's capacity to accommodate a 40% take rate.